Virtual Choir Inspires amid COVID-19, Takes Social Media by Storm
By Carl Stagner
Sunday, April 12, 2020, could easily go down in history as one of the most unusual Easters—especially in our lifetime. If COVID-19 wasn’t enough, a historic tornado outbreak dealt a brutal blow to parts of the country. The Church of God stood desperately in need of some inspiration and, especially echoing those connected on social media, we got it. East Side Church of God in Anderson, Indiana, premiered a video during their Easter Sunday morning service that took social media by storm. As the video’s reach continues to multiply, so do the lives touched by a virtual choir reminding all of us in the midst of the coronavirus crisis that the Jesus we proclaim is, in fact, a way-maker.
Preparing something of this magnitude required some forethought. Eric Billin, who has served as director of worship ministries for East Side Church of God in Anderson, Indiana, for the past five-and-a-half years, didn’t miss a beat.
“When all this COVID-19 stuff started happening,” he reflects, “we knew that we would not be able to meet for the rest of March, for sure. But we also started thinking about what we would do if we were unable to meet in person on Easter, that way we’d have a good four weeks to get something together. I had seen others do something like this in the past, and several of our choir members were disappointed that we might not get to sing for an in-person Easter.”
After a conversation with the church’s media director, they decided to “give it a go.” One e-mail to the church’s choir members and a post on Facebook got the ball rolling on the project and, two days later, they’d already received widespread interest. Dropbox, a popular online storage application, came in handy as instructions, recordings, and sheet music were sent to prospective vocalists. Five days were given to participants to record themselves singing their part so audio and video editing could begin as soon as possible. Prompt recording was necessary, as a project like this—numerous videos combined into one, with framing and transitions synced to the music—was going to take considerable effort.
“The beauty of this project, for me, was that I was simply producing it,” Eric explains. “I had a lot less technical work than our media director Ariana Moffitt, and Jarrod Bright, one of our audio engineers. They put a ton of work into this—probably sixty hours between the two of them, and I probably had another fifteen to twenty hours on it, so it was likely an eighty-hour project. That doesn’t include each of the forty participants and the time they put into it, so there is well over a hundred hours put into a six-minute video!”
But the impact the video has had on participants and viewers since makes it all worth it. In the first twenty-four hours, Facebook reported over 21,000 views and 450 shares. By the middle of the week following Easter, those figures rose to 38,000 views and 648 shares. Numerous comments from within the church and places far beyond demonstrate the power of virtual connectedness in a shelter-in-place world and, more accurately, the power of the song’s Subject.
“I think people are filled with so much uncertainty right now,” Eric reflects. “Hearing the truth of who Christ is serves as a source of hope. I think that people just are mystified by how this virtual choir process works. The truth of Christ, presented in a more novel way, is really inspiring people. And, honestly, I think this is an Easter where people really are claiming the resurrection power of Christ as a way-maker, miracle-worker, promise-keeper, and a light in this dark season.”
East Side Church of God wasn’t the only congregation that debuted virtual choirs on Easter. Among others, Cornwall Church (Bellingham, Washington) and New Vida Church of God (Dallas, Texas) did the same. Hear Cornwall singers present an arrangement of “Because He Lives” at https://www.facebook.com/cornwallchurch/videos/580950589184172/ (approximately the 42-minute mark) and New Vida vocalists present “Is He Worthy?” at https://www.facebook.com/NewVidaChurch/videos/1312016082320454/.
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.